Zone 4 – Sorting out the themes

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In Zones 1 and 2 you will have come up with some sort of personal story and you will have noted some relevant feelings.  Try now to sort what you have discovered into categories.  Of course you might have struggled with Zones 1 and 2.  This present section may be just the focus you need.

What are themes?

We find that most of us tend to feel, think, and act in fairly characteristic ways or patterns.  This is part of what makes us all so different.  Very often these patterns reflect our story.

If we think hard about it we will see that often we are going down the same track again and again.  We have a tendency to interpret events and feel about them in the same old way.

They have become themes and these themes are connected with our health problems.

To help you understand what we mean let’s go back to one of our earlier cases:

Recurrent Injuries

lA fit young woman who did a lot of sport and outdoor recreation has an extraordinary 6 year history of tendon ruptures and stress fractures unable to be explained by many specialists on the basis of her activities.

Her life becomes severely curtailed.  Eventually the story is uncovered.  At age 6 her family breaks up and there is a threat of being adopted out.  At age 9 her mother marries again and another 9 year old comes into the family.  The new girl falls off a horse and breaks a leg.  Our patient feels that she loses her mother to the new girl.  Three weeks later she falls off her bicycle and breaks an arm and gets mother back again, so to speak.

Nothing more happens until she meets a young man and marries and sets her heart on children.  But he wants nothing of this—it would spoil their outdoor recreation lifestyle.  She does not want to challenge this for fear of losing him, but she starts to get injured.

It is pointed out that the injuries may be ‘code’ for resistance to him.  She and he have  a joint session together and within a month she was back doing the usual activities.  She became pregnant.  Three years later she continued to be injury-free.

Let’s make a list of her possible themes:

First the Facts:

  • family breaks up when she is aged 5
  • threat of being adopted out
  • mother becomes preoccupied with new ‘sister’ because of injury
  • mother returns to patient when she gets injured
  • husband preoccupied with outdoor activity
  • patient wants children
  • unable to challenge husband
  • patient gets injured

Now the Themes:

  • fears of loss and abandonment
  • conflict avoidance in case of triggering something bad
  • indirect influence via illness

How did you get on matching these themes with the story?

Does it make sense to you?

Now try sorting out your themes.

We now provide a list of themes many people discover as part of their stories.


Typical themes

Human beings share many themes in common.

Most of them have to do with relationships in one way or another.

We suggest you give yourself enough time, go through your story asking whether it can be told or interpreted in the light of one or more of these themes.

We do not pretend this is an exhaustive list, but it may help you decide how YOUR themes are different.  We have put them into rough categories.

Issues of connection:  loss, isolation, abandonment, loneliness

Issues of value:  rejection, unimportance, lack of value, nothing to give

Issues of love:  unloved, unlovable, no one cares

Issues of closeness and intimacy:  demanding more than others can give, withholding from others

Issues of making sense and justice:  it’s not fair, why me?, envy, bitterness

Issues of effectiveness:  powerlessness, fears of trying, getting started and keeping going, giving up

Issues of hope, purpose, and meaning:  pointlessness, who am I?, what am I here for?, where am I going?

Issues of anger:  resentment, frustration, rage, aggression, revenge, retaliation

Issues of guilt and shame:  feeling bad, I am the bad one, I am the good one, who is to blame?

Issues of comparison:  competitive, jealousy, who’s important, need for recognition

Issues of survival:  fears of annihilation, not surviving, fragmentation, falling apart, need to keep things together

Issues of adequacy:  dependency, fears of being taken over, can’t do it on my own, excessive avoidance of dependency, excessive independence

Issues of conflict:  fears that conflict will destroy relationship, fear of what I will do if I get angry

Issues of trust and safety:  world essentially dangerous, can’t trust and can’t move, need to control, excessive need for logic and reason

You may well have decided on some variations of your own.

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